Illinois Seasonal Drive Benefits Victims of Domestic Violence

Community Ties: Family Shelter

South Suburban Family Shelter employees stand in front of the shelter's Clothesline Project, a traveling reminder of how many lives are affected by domestic violence. From left are Carolyn Zakem, human relations coordinator, Tamika Steele, court advocacy program administrator, Norma Garcia, office manager and Tracy Moses, Resale Store manager.

For Union Pacific's intermodal team at Yard Center in Dolton, Illinois, helping local charities is about supporting a community.

For Union Pacific's intermodal team at Yard Center in Dolton, Illinois, helping local charities is about supporting a community.

"We put a lot of effort into helping others as much as possible," said Rubin Myles, a UP night foreman at the diesel shop. "We know every little bit counts." For their annual holiday season effort, the Yard Center team held a food and winter clothing drive for the South Suburban Family Shelter.

Located in Homewood, Illinois, the shelter is a safe haven for those escaping domestic violence. With programs like a 24-hour hotline, extensive counseling opportunities and legal and medical assistance, the shelter helps families quickly get back on their feet at no cost.

When the team began collecting donations, the acts of kindness quickly piled up. "We were able to donate five bins of nonperishable food and two large bags filled with winter clothing," Myles said.

Vicki Meilach, the shelter's community outreach coordinator said her organization has remained open while others have been forced to close. "We're working with the same amount of dollars, but it needs to go further. We're serving more clients," she said.

The overwhelming majority of South Suburban Family Shelter's clients are single moms with anywhere from one to six children. "Any time clients come in for a counseling appointment, they bring their little shopping bags and take whatever items they need," Meilach said. "There's a constant turnover in the food and supply pantry. We fill it up and two days later it's close to empty again."

For Myles, participating in the drive was a way for his family to give back. "It's important to help our surrounding communities," Myles said. "I donated a large bag of clothes and winter coats, because I knew it was cold. It was a great feeling. It's good to let your neighbors know there is always someone willing to give a helping hand."

"Union Pacific's support has been invaluable," Meilach said. "What the UP volunteers are doing is exactly what we want all our volunteers to do. Reach out to your coworkers and contacts to help us get our message out. Let people know what we do and what we need. It helps our clients tremendously."

For more information on how you can support the South Suburban Family Shelter, visit their website at

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